Dealing With Difficult Health Care Directives

Dear Kevin: My list of resolutions for 2020 includes completing health care directives.

My complicated family situation is an obstacle. I’m the father of three adult children, and each one has a different mother.

I was not an attentive father, so there are tensions in every direction. Their feelings for me move along a broad spectrum.

I have not always been mindful of my health, so I’m living in a time of consequences.

I’m not married and my future ex-girlfriend is ambivalent about these things.

How do I decide to whom to pick to make decisions for me if I can’t without it becoming a burden or a vessel to unleash resentments?

–Loving but Aware.

Dear Dad,

You are many cautionary tales on two feet — for now. Everyone in this random world should execute health care directives. You may be making it more difficult than it needs to be.

There are two parts. One is a Living Will, which tells your health care providers that you anticipate a day arriving when you would be in a hopeless, vegetative condition. If it does, you want your doctors to keep you comfortable but not take measures to extend your life.

A health care agent or proxy is a person who makes medical decisions because you cannot — due to a temporary or permanent condition. Advancing dementia is a typical one. You are not required to select one of your children as your health care agent. Indeed, you may save them some torment and strife by not appointing one or all to make decisions.

The best choice is someone who understands and appreciates your philosophy of medical treatment under a variety of circumstances.

A sibling or loyal friend you’ve long known, perhaps a sister with a firm manner, should be able to attend to you while containing family explosions. If yours is a life fraught with rivalries and rogues, you should not appoint the primary beneficiary of your estate as your health care proxy.

The next time you see your primary care physician provide him or her with your directives. At the same time, engage in a discussion of your expectations and desires should you have to confront a serious illness. Doctors take and preserve comprehensive notes. Technology makes them accessible — with permission — to other health care providers.

Next on your 2020 list: fixing those relationships with your children before you need to use those health care directives.

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If you are impaled on the horns of a dilemma and want to risk receiving advice, tell your tale to Kevin Rennie: KevinKnows@icloud.com. Identities will be protected. Messages may be edited.

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Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and former state legislator in Connecticut. He has been a columnist with the Hartford Courant for over a decade and played key roles uncovering scandals involving then-Sen. Chris Dodd (D) and then-Gov. John Rowland (R). He can be reached at kfrennie@yahoo.com.


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